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Buddhist-run Thai drug rehab center accused of torture

Inmates of squalid prison-like facility freed by soldiers after complaint filed by lawyer and shaman

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

UCA News reporter, Bangkok

Published: September 24, 2021 04:42 AM GMT

Updated: September 24, 2021 04:55 AM GMT

Buddhist-run Thai drug rehab center accused of torture

More than 200 men are crammed into a locked room with only two bathrooms at Wat Tha Phu Rat Bamrung's drug rehabilitation center. (Photo: Mor Pla Chuay Duai Facebook page)

A popular rehabilitation center for drug addicts run by a Buddhist temple in Thailand has been accused of engaging in forms of torture in its bid to wean them off the use of narcotics.

The drug rehabilitation center of Wat Tha Phu Rat Bamrung, a monastery in the central province of Kanchanaburi, was visited by soldiers this week after a lawyer and a man who calls himself a shaman filed a complaint against the facility.

The rehabilitation center turned out to have 216 men crammed tightly into cinderblock houses in settings that resembled prison cells, based on images published online.

Pictures and videos posted on social media showed the addicts occupying unfurnished and overcrowded houses where they slept on the floor.

The men, who were freed by the soldiers and taken to a field hospital, had been taken to the temple by relatives and law enforcement officials so that they could be helped to get off their drug addiction.

They had each paid 12,000 baht (US$360) on admittance and a monthly payment of 2,000 baht was also required of them, it has been revealed.

In my view, there is an organized gang involving police, temple and rescue workers

However, the prison-like conditions in which they had been kept at the temple were found to be “atrocious,” according to Jeeraphan Phetkhao, a self-professed shaman, and Paisarn Ruangrit, a lawyer.

The treatment at the temple lasted for 12 months and if an inmate wanted to leave early he was forced to pay another 10,000 baht, Jeeraphan said.

“In my view, there is an organized gang involving police, temple and rescue workers,” Jeeraphan said.

The shaman said he had called soldiers to visit the facility as he did not trust police officers, whom he accused of turning a blind eye to the abuse of drug addicts at the temple. 

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“It’s curious that police from Kalasin and Roi Et provinces [in the northeast] took so many people involved in illicit drugs to this temple for rehabilitation. From some villages, 10 or more people were sent there,” the shaman added.

Paisarn, the lawyer, concurred, saying that the situation of the addicts at the temple was similar to the plight of victims of human trafficking.

He alleged that many of the men held at the temple had been beaten and tortured in various ways while they were allegedly receiving treatment for their addictions.

One newly freed addict was quoted as saying that his nine-month stay at the rehabilitation center had felt like being in prison.

Inmates at the facility had to rise at 3.45am to pray and were given only a single meal a day. If the men failed to obey rules or displeased people in charge, they would be refused food for the day.

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